Srinagar, Feb 3 (AP/UNB) — India's prime minster paid a daylong visit to disputed Kashmir on Sunday to review development work as separatists fighting Indian rule called for a shutdown in the Himalayan region.
Shops and businesses were closed while thousands of armed government forces and commandos in flak jackets spread out across Kashmir and closed off roads with razor wire and iron barricades to prevent protests and rebel attacks during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit.
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
During his visit, Modi inaugurated some infrastructure projects and started foundation work on several others related to health care, hydropower generation and education at three places in the region.
Traffic was sparse, with public transport staying off the roads and few cars venturing out in Srinagar, the main city and the center of urban dissent against Indian rule. Modi reviewed developmental projects in the city amid a massive security blanket around a lakeside convention center.
"We will fight terrorism forcefully. We will break its back," Modi said at the Srinagar venue in an address to officials.
Authorities detained dozens of activists overnight and put separatist leaders under house arrest to stop them from staging any anti-India protest. They also shut internet on mobile phones and suspended train services in the Kashmir Valley, a common tactic to make organizing protests difficult and discourage dissemination of protest videos.
Government forces also enforced a security lockdown in downtown Srinagar, the urban heart of anti-India protests, as they warned residents to stay home to foil demonstrations.
Modi visited the remote mountainous Ladakh region bordering China and Pakistan on Sunday morning, where he inaugurated a university.
Later in a Hindu-dominated area in Jammu, Modi addressed a public rally. His speech had clear political overtones as he eyed India's upcoming national election due in few months.
Modi invoked the Hindu nationalist theme of "Mother India," which nationalists say included present day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
"There are many children of Mother India who have faced persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh," he said. "We will stand with those who were part of India at one time," he added.
Three Kashmiri leaders, known as the Joint Resistance Leadership, called for the strike to protest Modi's visit.
"A person who in his pursuit to crush Kashmiri resistance ordered killings and damaging properties, hurting Kashmiri economy and other oppressive measures deserves only a protest from those he has oppressed," the leaders said in a statement.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which in recent years has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Dhaka, Feb 3 (UNB) - British officials have revived cold war emergency plans to relocate the royal family should there be riots in London if Britain suffers a disruptive departure from the European Union, reports local media on Sunday newspapers.
“These emergency evacuation plans have been in existence since the cold war but have now been repurposed in the event of civil disorder following a no-deal Brexit,” the Sunday Times said, quoting an unnamed source from the government’s Cabinet Office, which handles sensitive administrative issues.
The Mail Online on Sunday also said it had learnt of plans to move the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth, to safe locations away from London.
In January an annual speech by the Queen, 92, to a women’s group was widely interpreted in Britain as a call for politicians to reach agreement over Brexit.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative MP and keen supporter of Brexit, told the Mail on Sunday he believed the plans showed unnecessary panic by officials over a no-deal Brexit as senior royals had remained in London during bombing in the second World War.
But the Sunday Times said an ex-police officer formerly in charge of royal protection, Dai Davies, expected Queen Elizabeth would be moved out of London if there was unrest. “If there were problems in London, clearly you would remove the royal family away from those key sites,” Davies was quoted as saying.
India, Feb 3 (AP/UNB) — Seven people were killed and 29 injured when nine coaches of a New Delhi-bound train derailed early Sunday in eastern India, officials said.
Most of the passengers were asleep when the train jumped the tracks. Soon after the accident, hundreds of villagers rushed to help rescuers and members of India's disaster management to pull out people trapped in the twisted metal and overturned coaches.
Indian Railways official Rajesh Dutt Bajpai said that by noon Sunday, the rescue work was over. Two of the injured were in critical condition, he said.
The cause of the accident is being investigated. The Press Trust of India news agency said a rail fracture appeared to have caused the derailment about 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Patna, the Bihar state capital.
India's vast railway system is the world's third largest but lacks modern signaling and communication systems. Most accidents are blamed on poor maintenance, outdated equipment and human error.
In 2016, 127 people were killed after 14 coaches derailed in Uttar Pradesh state, in one of India's worst train accidents.
Johannesburg, Feb 3 (AP/UNB) — A peace deal has been reached between the Central African Republic government and 14 armed groups after their first-ever direct dialogue aimed at ending years of conflict, the United Nations and African Union announced on Saturday.
The peace deal represents rare hope for the impoverished, landlocked nation where interreligious and intercommunal fighting has continued since 2013. Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in a conflict that has sent two people to the International Criminal Court.
"I am determined to work with the president and his government to address the concerns of our brothers who took up arms," said Central African Republic's Cabinet director Firmin Ngrebada, according to the U.N.
The parties on Sunday will sign a draft of the agreement, which focuses on power-sharing and transitional justice, Sudan's state media reported, citing Sudan's chief negotiator Atta al-Manan. The final deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday. Talks began Jan. 24 in Khartoum.
"This is a great day for Central African Republic and all its people," said the AU commissioner for peace and security, Smail Chergui.
The fighting has carried the high risk of genocide, the U.N. has warned. The conflict began in 2013 when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital, Bangui. Largely Christian anti-Balaka militias fought back. Scores of mosques were burned. Priests and other religious leaders were killed. Many Muslims fled the country after mobs decapitated and dismembered some in the streets.
The vicious fighting in a country known more for coups than interreligious violence was so alarming that Pope Francis made a bold visit in 2015, removing his shoes and bowing his head at the Central Mosque in the last remaining Muslim neighborhood of the capital, Bangui.
"Together we say 'no' to hatred," the pope said.
The violence has never disappeared, intensifying and spreading last year after a period of relative peace as armed groups battled over lands rich in gold, diamonds and uranium.
After more than 40 people were killed in a rebel attack on a displaced persons camp in November, both the leader of the 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission and the country's prime minister both acknowledged shortcomings in the response. "I knew that we did not have all the necessary means to protect our people," the prime minister said.
In a grim report last year marking five years of the conflict, the U.N. children's agency said fighters often target civilians rather than each other, attacking health facilities and schools, mosques and churches and camps for displaced people. At least half of the more than 640,000 people displaced are children, it said, and thousands are thought to have joined the armed groups, often under pressure.
Last month the chief of Central African Republic's soccer federation appeared at the International Criminal Court for the first time since he was arrested last year in France on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona is accused of leading the anti-Balaka for at least a year early in the fighting.
In November a Central African Republic militia leader and lawmaker, Alfred Yekatom, made his first ICC appearance, accused of crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers. He allegedly commanded some 3,000 fighters in a predominantly Christian militia in and around the capital early in the fighting. He was arrested last year after firing gunshots in parliament.
So far no Seleka fighters have been publicly targeted by the court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.
As the peace talks began last month, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned of "catastrophe" if no agreement was reached, saying repeated cycles of violence in one of the world's poorest nations had "pushed people(asterisk)s resistance to breaking point."
A majority of Central African Republic's 2.9 million people urgently need humanitarian support, the group said.
On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend an arms embargo on Central African Republic for a year but raised the possibility that it could be lifted earlier as the government has long urged.
Johannesburg, Feb 3 (AP/UNB) — The United States military says it has killed 13 members of the al-Shabab extremist group with an airstrike 30 miles (48 kilometers) outside Somalia's capital.
A U.S. Africa Command statement says Friday's strike occurred near Gandarshe in Lower Shabelle region. The statement says the al-Qaida-linked fighters have used Gandarshe as a staging area for bombings in the capital, Mogadishu.
A half-dozen U.S. airstrikes in December killed 62 al-Shabab fighters near Gandarshe as they were preparing to attack a Somali military base.
This is the 10th U.S. airstrike this year in Somalia. It carried out nearly 50 strikes last year in the Horn of Africa nation against al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.
A strike on Thursday killed 24 al-Shabab fighters in neighboring Hiran region.